THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION – AND HOW TO DEVELOP PATIENCE IN THE UNREADY
In the summer of 2011 I Made a Decision. I’d write the darned book I’d been thinking about for years, and get it published. After all, I had three months clear from work, and I’d studied English to A level so I knew how to write.
I’ll wait a minute for you all to stop laughing…
Anyway, I finished The Book in those three months. All 160,000 words of it. And I sent it out to some lucky, lucky agents. I got form responses, no responses, and one scribbled ‘No thanks’ on the front page of the manuscript. At which point I decided to get over my fear of people reading what I’d written (yes, that’s right, it went out un-betaed…) and asked a writing friend to have a look. He was gentle, and kind, and put up with 30,000 words of dross before suggesting I learn how to write. At which point, I joined a forum and discovered there was a lot to learn.
A year later, I had the manuscript up to some sort of shape, and most of the second book drafted. I went through betas like water, I cut the first 70,000 or so words in one night (then put about 20,000 of them back in), I killed a hideous Deus ex Machina when it was pointed out, and then I delivered it to Teresa Edgerton, an author and developmental editor I knew through an internet forum, to review.
When her review came back, it wasn’t terrible. In fact, it was much better than I anticipated. It left a lot to do, yes, but overall she was positive. It was a good story, with great pace. It perhaps didn’t stand out enough to garner attention in a competitive market, though, and could do with some additional building of the world and secondary characters, but none of it was a deal breaker. I was beyond relieved. Teresa knows her books and if she said it had promise, then it did. I rewrote it and sent it off to an open submissions window and sat on it through the three months exclusivity the window required.
Since I couldn’t sub it and I now had the writing bug I set about trying to write a book not based in the same world, and ignored Abendau for a number of months. (My one tip to new writers – write something else, as well as the opus. You’ll learn different lessons and your writing will grow quicker and stronger.)
By this point, the three months had passed and the window was running behind, having been totally swamped. Amazingly, Abendau hadn’t been rejected in the first pass, but I felt I could take what I’d learned from my standalone novel and apply some of it, so I did a full rewrite. Some of the story survived, some didn’t. The beginning was strengthened (but there’s still a magic chapter where the whole thing takes off, and it’s still the same chapter, but that’s the writing alchemy for you…), and I started to sub – this time to small publishers.
I started to get full requests and then, finally, an offer of publication. I stared at that email, and stared at it, and didn’t quite believe it. After a while I read the boilerplate contract offered and some of my excitement died down when I realised it wasn’t the contract for me. Each writer has a different career path they hope to take, and the contracts you enter into should reflect that. In this case, I didn’t want to be tied to the same publisher for future books.
At that point, someone else stepped forward and offered to publish the trilogy. They loved the books, they were offering an advance, and I got on well with them. Turning that offer down was hard but, ultimately, it came down to whether the distribution and marketing were in place to support the book.
A few weeks later, I reached the last 3 percent in the submissions window, but was rejected. I took heart from it, though – the version they had was prior to the rewrite and yet it had done so well. I had also been taken on by my amazing agent for my standalone, so Abendau’s Child got pushed to the side during edits on it. At the back of my mind, I was thinking of self-publishing it once I had book three finished, when Tickety-boo Press set up.
I was impressed at its stable of talent, not least that Teresa Edgerton was being re-published by them, but also that she was their editor. She had transformed Abendau’s Child with her first edit and understood what I was trying to do with tricky subject material, and why, and I leapt at the chance of working with her again. My agent subbed to Tickety-boo and the offer came through quickly.
The months since the offer have been used to complete the third book (although it will need another run-through before I present it to Teresa), to agree a cover concept, and to work towards final edits. During that time, I’ve worked on another standalone and started a new book (sadly languishing at the moment, but it’s taking shape in my mind as I work at Abendau.)
It’s a hugely exciting time, seeing it become stronger and working towards a publication date. I’m aware how few writers get their first book published, let alone an offer on a first trilogy, let alone three offers. I love all my books, like my kids, equally, but there’s always a soft place, I think, for your first set of characters in your first ever world. To see it making its way into the world is something a bit special and it was worth all the hard crits, the rewrites, the ups and the downs to get it there.